Tuesday, August 27, 2019


3 Points of Mongol Hearthguard (12 figures): Gripping Beast Mongol Heavy Cavalry

For anyone who may have noticed, it has been nearly a month since my last post.  August doldrums aside, this is in part because I have been engaged with painting my Saga Mongol Hearthguard contingent.  This was a big departure from my norm, being my first multi-figure foray into medievals, with all that this entailed (unfamiliar painting techniques for body armor, horse barding, and whatnot; my first experience with shield transfers--complicated by domed shields--and non-standard uniform and kit).  One month, basically, to complete 12 figures--I always said I was a slow painter!   
When getting started, I found that there were few examples of painted Gripping Beast Mongols on the interwebs to help inform my approach (aside from those in the Gripping Beast catalog,which I will comment on later in this post).  It would seem that there aren't alot of Mongols out there in the Saga-sphere.  Thus, I hope that this study will be of interest to anyone curious about Saga Mongols or who may be embarking on these figs. As usual, in this post, you may clix pix for BIG PIX...
The look I was going for was "Mongol Knights," with each figure being an individual: some carrying shields and some not, a variety of weapons, and differing "liveries" (for lack of a better term).  To support this variety, I bought shield packs (three types),  and Timurid/ Mongol weapon packs (hint: I would recommend picking up weapons and/or shields to anyone ordering these figures given that you won't be able to forecast what comes in the package).  Researching Mongol heavy cavalry, I was struck by how colorful they were. So I tried to capture this by balancing the "spiny" look of armored warriors with infusions of color.  I mounted these figures so that I could also use them as Tartar Nobles in my Smalle Warre system (hence the colored, numbered pegs on the stands).

 Mongol Guard In War Mask from the Netflix Marco Polo Series
Inspired by both sources and the war masked Mongol guards in the Marco Polo Netflix series, I made sure that my Hearthguard included a healthy contingent of these intimidating fellows. 

I also took a crack at some lacquered/colored armor (red and blue), as well as a figure in  blackened armor.  There were lots of options for adding color and delivering variety when it came to handling the horse barding.

Although there was great variety among the figures, where I did have doubles (above), I varied the color schemes, weapons, and shield options between the figures.  The hand-painted shield in the upper right picture is based on an example found in an exhibition on Mongol arms and armor (found online).  In the case of the pair in the lower picture,  I modified the second figure by taking off the standing plume and adding a horsehair mane (out of green stuff).  I added horsehair manes to several other helmets that didn't have them as well (I wanted my Mongols to have horsehair manes--black, of course!). 

This is another minor modification.  I used the leader in the Gripping Beast High Command set (pictured at the top--with the triple plume) and substituted a horsehair mane out of green stuff for the standing plumes: opinions may differ, but I think this fellow looks much more intimidating and business-like in this headgear.  I also did the horse barding in alternating lines of  gold and steel.  The warmask is black with highlights of brass and gold, rendering an impressively dark visage for this fellow, I think. 

The saddle blankets, quivers, and the bow holsters provided options for adding color as well.

I think the illustrations of the Gripping Beast figures in the online catalog, although professionally painted to a standard I could never approach, make the figures appear more stiff and cartoon like than they actually are.  By way of illustration, here are two of my favorite sculpts from among the sets I received: very different than the impression the sample images render.  The figure on the left is actually from the Timurid command set (I added the horsehair mane to this one as well: it comes with a naked spiked helmet). 

You gotta love any historical weapon set that has a warhammer shaped like a hand holding a spike--don't mess with the Mongols!
One criticism I have is that the hand position is unsuited to the lance or mounted spear.  Thus, I dumped the idea of using those weapons and instead went with an unconventional look of mainly axes, maces, and warhammers--with a few swords tossed in. 

The new Hearthguard divided into two six figure units as it might appear on the Saga table along with my recently completed  Warlord and War Drummer.  Next step will be to get some practice with them ahead of our Saga Game Day. 


Friday, August 9, 2019


Bob advancing his Royal Engineers under the eye of the British High Command (Charlie).  AJ, host and game master, shares the German's sense of concern over developments. 

In this post, dear readers, I will render a supplemental battle report on a recent game held at club member and friend AJ's place.  This was a hypothetical WWII game set in the lead up to the Battle of Walcheren, 1944, pitting the British against the Germans.  I say that this is a "supplemental" battle report because AJ has an excellent report on his blog that outlines the scenario, forces, victory conditions, and flow of the game.  Thus,  I refer you there at this point for this information rather than repeating it all here. I'll wait...
...welcome back. Let's begin. We drew lots for sides.  (Above Left) The (mostly) hirsute British Players: left to right, Bob, Byron, Jeff, and Charlie.  (Above Right) My German Komrades, Ralph (at the top of the picture) who would hold down the German right, and Rob, who would hold down the German left. Upon drawing out a German marker, I cut loose with some nonsense "GI German"--as a reward for which I was elected (drafted) as the German commander by Ralph and Rob (note to self: don't do that!).  Thus, I took up the HQ elements and the center of the line.  And was responsible for our brilliant plan.  As usual, you may clix pix for BIG PIX in this report.
There were three German mixed platoons, plus some HQ assetts (See AJ's report for details).  We had three crossing points to guard, and other than knowing that any British armor or vehicles would have to come in via the road that ran off the table our left, we did not know where the British reinforcements would be arriving. Thus, we used a balanced deployment to cover the area, with each of the three German platoons/players covering one of the crossings: Rob on our left, Ralph on the right, and I in the center.  As far as special elements, I put one emplacement right at the end of the bridge in the center, tying it in with the stone walls and creating a strongpoint and roadblock.  Two of our other emplacements went to cover our Flak gun and the ford on our left, figuring that we could see a quick push supported by armor on this flank and would need the cover if so.  Ralph (on the right) positioned a machine gun in the pillbox and his infantry to the right of that.  I spotted the AT gun and the infantry gun with long diagonal fields of fire, with our mortar ensconced behind the town. My Luftwaffe infantry squad I put in the roadblock and my Ostruppen squad was under cover behind walls on the other side of the town.  Our HQ platoon element, which was another Luftwaffe infantry squad, was in reserve in the town.
The view from my German infantry gun (which was actually attached to my platoon, and not one of the HQ elements).  These jolly lads spent most of the game lobbing direct and indirect HE at the British Commandos and Royal Engineers who were pressing in from the British left.  Not much damage, but the effect was to chase them out of positions--and to help make Ralph (who was hard pressed) feel like someone cared...
My anti tank gun, positioned with a magnificent field of fire on allied vehicular approach. This made life figuratively uncomfortable for the allied armor, if not materially so...
 ...my AT gun fired at each British vehicle as it entered, hitting nothing (and so it went for the rest of the game with the AT: "Plunk: miss; Plunk: miss...repeat."  As can gleaned by the steely gaze over his spectacles, Byron, the British Armor commander, was not amused.  
The British Armor as seen from the road block in the town.  The British Armor wound up standing off and firing with results not unlike those achieved by my crew served weapons: let's just say that there wasn't much chance for sweeping armored warfare in this situation. 

The British Commandos were already on the table at start in the farm complex opposite Ralph on our right. Early on, we thought to take them out since they were exposed, and threw everything we had at them. Being elite, they shrugged it off and kept on going...
...so I masterfully shifted the mortar fire off of the house (now empty) and inflicted 33 percent casualties on this lot (Hey, when it's 1944 and you're leading a mixed lot of German leftovers you take what you can get!).  
Ralph forward deployed his Ostruppen squad, which wound up getting the thumping we had expected to deliver to the forward deployed British Commandos.  These fellows would pull back to pull some hits. 
The British basically brought everything in on their left, leaving Ralph (on our right) to fend off the assault. He masterfully used his Luftwaffe squad (above) in "peekaboo" fashion, advancing to fire and then falling back behind cover to pull hits. This single squad, facing a good part of the British force, was still in action at the end of the game. 
Top, the British High Command charting the main effort against the ford on our right. (Immediately Above Left) Bob's Royal Engineers detonate charges and take out the dragon's teeth (and by refusing to back off themselves, take a hit in the bargain).  (Immediately Above Right) The British flow across the ford and into the German right.
The British penetrate to within satchel charge and flamethrower distance of the pillbox (note that you can see Ralph's "peekaboo" platoon still floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee from behind the hill on the right). But as they get closer, they encounter more and more concentrated fire from the troops supporting the center
My Ostruppen on the edge of the town engaging the approaching British (I was fortunate that I was able to not need these reluctant troops to do much more than this)...
My Luftwaffe squad holding down the road block fires in support of the pillbox. You may notice something familiar about the second figure from the right. Hint: the reason he may have his rifle slung is because, "He sees nothing!"
High anticipation and low expectations await the roll of the dice resolving another round of fire from the British Armor (it was that sort of game for the "big guns" on both sides).
Although the action was happening on our right, Rob (on our left), was not idle. Once it was clear that the effort was concentrated there, he moved his infantry across the river and up towards the road (you can see them in the distance in the above picture). The threat of close range antitank weapons from these forced the British Armor to stand back, and Rob was able to bring a squad across just in time to help thwart the assault on the pillbox at the end of the game. Although they hadn't taken out the pillbox and seized the bridge, the British had gained a foothold over the ford on our right, and so the decision went to them in the end. A good time was had by all, though.

Thanks to our convivial host and game master, AJ!

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